Electric Book Works Publishing reinvented for the digital age

Sustaining open-access healthcare with print sales

Back in 2007, Electric Book Works embarked on a bold experiment with the Perinatal Education Trust. PET had developed ground-breaking learning programmes for nurses and midwives, and needed a publishing partner. Everything would be published online for anyone to read for free. And we would fund the publishing work by selling printed editions of these programmes.

Bettercare's 'Infection Prevention and Control' course on a computer, phone and printed book

The programmes take the form of coursebooks. Any group of nurses or midwives could use the books to run their own, self-contained course in subjects like Maternal Care, Newborn Care, and Child Healthcare.

The question was: if everything is online for free, will we sell enough printed editions to be financially sustainable?

The answer has been very clear: yes, enough people want printed editions that their sales can pay for ongoing operational costs, even when everything is online for free.

Bettercare's 'Infection Prevention and Control' as a printed book

That experiment came to be called Bettercare, and its materials have been used at universities, hospitals, clinics and training programmes in South Africa, Namibia, India, Pakistan, the UAE, Australia, and elsewhere.

In 2016 Bettercare left the EBW fold to become an independent non-profit organisation. Today, EBW continues to develop and maintain its library of coursebooks as an open-access website and as printed books.

The Bettercare website on a tablet and a phone

Today, Bettercare’s online books are visited by 80 000 people every month, and their print editions are available from online retailers and in bulk direct from the printer. Bettercare continues to be a self-sustaining publisher run entirely by part-time volunteers.

Since healthcare information changes often and can be life-saving, Bettercare books need to be stored and edited in single master files, with strict version control. In a competitive healthcare-publishing marketplace, they also need to look great and be easy for busy, non-technical nurses and midwives to learn from.

We make this possible with our Electric Book workflow, which lets our expert team produce books in multiple formats from one source, all managed with best-practice version control.

We’re very proud of our Bettercare work, and continue to work on new books for this important series, which now includes coursebooks for community health workers, doctors, policy makers, and hospital administrators.

20 September 2021